When you're competitive but can't beat No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3, the best you possibly can be is fourth. Which sums up things right now for Roland Park, metro Baltimore's No. 4-ranked team.
The Reds -- their only two previous Baltimore-area losses having been to McDonogh and St. Mary's, the area's top two teams -- lost yesterday to No. 3 Seton Keough, as well, 47-43.
They did it in a rugged, non-league struggle the Gators took control of in the third period. That was when Roland Park shot. and shot. and shot. and shot -- 13 times, in fact, 11 from the field -- and scored just two points on sophomore forward Kelsey Twist's free throws not long after the second half began.
Ironically, those points gave the Reds (16-6, 7-1 AIS league) their only lead, 25-24. Two possessions later, Seton Keough junior Meaghan Allan buried a three-pointer from the left wing, and as things turned out, the Reds' "place" was sealed.
Seton Keough (17-4, 8-1 Catholic League) scored only nine points in the third period, extending its one-point halftime lead to 33-25 entering the fourth quarter. But the Gators' in-your-face, man-to-man defense simply made a statement about what the Reds would have to do to win.
"It was physical. And we played in too many streaks," said Reds senior guard Betsy Gaines, whose 12 points led her team. "We didn't play hard for 32 minutes."
That assessment echoed Reds coach Scott Buckley, who added: "We get these times when we just relax a little, and that's all it takes to get put away by quality teams like this. I thought we were in good shape coming out of halftime."
The Reds did make a run at respectability during the fourth quarter. Disappearing at 41-29 with about five minutes left, Roland Park's teamwork improved, and that, plus the Gators' desire to run the clock, yielded a competitive finish.
Two field goals by the Reds' Twist, who had 10 points, and pairs of free throws by Esther Ehrmann and Caline McHenry, plus guard Meaghan Kelly's driving layup, made it a four-point game, 45-41, with 57 seconds left.
Then Seton Keough junior Denise King, tough all evening, sank two free throws with 19 seconds left, putting the Gators up 47-41. The Gators' only points in the game's final three minutes all but assured victory.
King had a game-high 23 points, including 10 of the Gators' 14 in the first quarter and three three-pointers. She also had a gritty, momentum-altering put-back of the second of two shots she missed close-in with the game tied at 17 in the second quarter.
"Denise King was the difference today -- her scoring, of course, but she got a lot of offensive rebounds for us," said Gators coach Jim Stromberg. "Roland Park's a scrappy bunch. They really get after you."
Pub Date: 2/02/99